The San Jose Sharks jumped on the Washington Capitals for 3 goals in the third period from Patrick Marleau, Mark-Edoward Vlasic, and an late empty netter from Torrey Mitchell as team teal took care of business with a 5-2 win. The win for the Sharks was their eight in the last ten games (8-1-1) as the Sharks have started to put their December swoon in the rear view mirror. The Sharks got strong goal tending from Antti Niemi who made 28 saves and turned away some very good Washington scoring opportunities through the course of the game. The win gives the Sharks an overall mark of 23-11-4 for 50 points, 1st place in the Pacific Division and 3rd place in the Western Conference Standings.
The Sharks with this win and Thursday Night’s win against Columbus sweep the brief two-game homestand, as the Sharks appear to be very aware that all home games will be critical going forward. This is especially true when you consider that there are only 16 home dates left. Team Teal will be playing 18 of the next 23 games on the road with a four game roadie starting Tuesday Night at Minnesota versus the Wild. The Sharks seem to always play up to the strength level of their opponents, and were certainly ready for battle with Alexander Ovetchin & Company…
Reviewing Saturday Nights Action:
A Good Opening Round – The first period was a solid display of skill and speed from both teams, and both goalies (Niemi for the Sharks, and Shark nemesis Tomas Vokoun for the Capitals) had to be on their game. Ovetchkin seemed to be anywhere and everywhere, and the Sharks had to do a good job to shadow him though this task would not be easy. When Ovetchkin was not shooting the puck, he was getting feed passes to those who were in position and keeping Niemi quite busy. Niemi would stop all 12 shots he faced, while his counterpart Vokoun made nine saves on his end of the ice, turning away some good scoring opportunities for the Sharks. This was about a clean of a period as you’ll see as neither team drew any penalties, the focus was on the level of play itself which spoke volumes.
Meeting up with “The Crankshaft” - Douglas Murray certainly need no introduction to Sharks fans or anyone at HP Pavilion last night that wasn’t a member of the Washington Capitals. However, nobody can ever accuse Murray of being “shy”. One of the highlights of the first period for the Sharks was Murray leveling both Dennis Wideman and Jason Chimera in the Sharks defensive zone and making his presence felt throughout the game. The Capitals now had something else to think about, “Where is #3 on the ice?”. The Caps had to watch for Murray throughout, which always bodes well for the Sharks.
More Twists & Turns - The second period was somewhat similar to the first period with both teams attacking the net, however the momentum swung towards the Sharks as they seemed to be getting the lions share of scoring opportunities. The Sharks would finally capitalize (no pun intended…okay, maybe a little) as Jamie McGinn got a feed pass from the corner over to Jason Demers. Demers’ slap shot would ricochet off the boards to the front of the goal net. The puck ended up behind Vokoun who’s left skate accidentally kicked it into the net just as Michal Handzus appeared to be diving towards it. The puck crossed the goal line and the Sharks had a 1-0 lead. The lead however would be short lived as the Capitals would take advantage of a penalty on the Sharks to Brad Wichester for interfering with Vokoun. The Capitals power play unit would make quick work of this opportunity in just 25 seconds as Wideman would take a feed pass from Alexander Semin and launch a wrister that beat Niemi top shelf to his right.
With the game tied 1-1 both teams would continue their assaults on their offensive zones. Even with the Caps power play goal having just scored the Sharks were not deterred and would get their power play chance just before the second period would run out. Towards the end of the period, the Caps Wideman would get caught high sticking and sent to the penalty box for a 2 minute minor penalty with just 47 seconds left in the middle stanza. The Sharks seemed to rotate the puck fairly well and were able to control the zone, though the clock would be the enemy given the time in the period. Dan Boyle would twice pass the puck to Brent Burns, the first time Burns having no shot forcing him to send it back towards Boyle. Boyle, showing his veteran experience, had the presence of mind to look towards the game clock to see if he had enough time to get it back to Burns, and with just under 10 seconds left, he did. Burns took the feed pass back from Boyle and drilled a slap shot that beat Vokoun to his left. The Sharks had regained the lead at 2-1 as the period was winding down.
Capital Gains Times Three – The third period was more or less a bad news, good news scenario for the Sharks. The bad news came first as the Capitals Joel Ward would tie the game just 44 seconds into the period as he was able to get away from Handzus who was shadowing him and drill a wrister that just beat Niemi by a hair. However, things would turn around for the Sharks and in a hurry. Just 16 seconds after Ward’s game tying goal, the Sharks took the faceoff and went right to work. Boyle was able to get to the puck in the neutral zone and hit Joe Thornton with a wide open pass. Thornton then made a nifty back handed pass to a wide open Marleau who caught Vokoun out of the position. Marleau deposited the biscuit into the basket and the Sharks quickly regained the lead at 3-2. The Sharks now lead they would not relinquish despite a very close call a few moments later when Matt Hendricks point blank shot that actually beat Niemi, however it barely missed going in as it hit the crossbard and deflected to the safety netting out of play. Moments later, in the Capitals defensive zone Ryane Clowe would send a feed pass to Vlasic, who amazingly had a direct path to Vokoun and the net. Despite being shadowed by two Caps, Vlasic was still able to get a shot on net. The first shot bounced off of Vokoun, but Vlasic in the same motion was able to gather the rebound and flick the puck over the Caps goalie to increase the Sharks lead to two. The Sharks controlled the third period for pretty much the final 19 minutes, and capped off the evening (again no pund intended…okay, maybe a little) with an empty net goal from Mitchell with just over a minute left in the game.
Ovetchkin kept at bay – Ovetchkin despite his speed, quickness and firepower, was held to just three shots on goal, and was a minus 3 for the evening despite his time on ice of 21 minutes. The Sharks did a very good job on defense for the most part and were able to cover the ice well enough to make sure that it would not be Ovetchkin who would beat them, that would have to come from someone else if it were to come at all. It never happened for the Caps, and the Sharks firm control of the third period after two evenly played periods prior is significant because of the quality of the opponent. A good night for team teal with a rock solid effort, plus a good win for the team psyche as well.
“We Need More Cow Bell” - I understand some of those in attendance brought in some cow bells. Well, it looks like it worked. Maybe this is what the Sharks need at the Tank, more Cow Bell. It certainly cannot hurt…
Four Game Roadie Ahead - The Sharks will now embark on a four game road trip starting with a stop in Minnesota this Tuesday. After visiting the Wild, the trip will be followed by three more stops in Winnipeg on Thursday, Columbus next Saturday and Chicago next Sunday. The Sharks historically have been fairly solid on the road when the stakes are high and the calander has turned over. The Sharks now have a three point lead in the Pacific Division, by no means is that quality breathing room. However consider this, teams that usually make the plays in the Western Conference do so somewhere between the 95-100 point marks, so in theory the Sharks are half-way there. If the Sharks can get on roll her and open up a gap between themselves and L A, Dallas and Phoenix, this will go along ways towards qualifying for the post season and locking up a spot in the top three seedings…
GO SHARKS! TAKE THE “WILD” THIS TUESDAY!!!
The King Shark
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